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What is a living will?

A living will is a written, legal document that provides instructions for how you want to be cared for medically in the event you are unable to make those decisions. For instance, you are seriously injured and in a coma, have dementia and are in the late stages or are terminally ill and near the end of your life. Without a living will, your close relatives will have to make these life decisions for you. They may make them based on their emotions and not on what is best for you. By having a living will, you relieve them of this burden.

A living will usually doesn't provide in-depth information about your wishes should you become incapacitated, but you can also have an advance directive drawn up. In an advance directive, you can name a person who you trust to make other decisions and choices for you. It can be a spouse or other family member, or even a close friend. When creating an advance directive, it is also a good idea to name one or more alternates in case the person or persons you named are unable to take on the role.

What kind of advance directives are used in Kentucky? You can use a Medical Power of Attorney. This can be included in a Durable Power of Attorney or it can be a separate document. The medical power of attorney authorizes a person of your choice to make any medical decisions on your behalf. You can designate a person as your Health Care Surrogate through a Power of Attorney document, a Living Will or a Do Not Resuscitate order. A DNR tells your medical team that you do not want any medical procedures used to restart your breathing or heart in a medical emergency.

Everyone should take the time to have these documents drawn up and accessible in the event of an emergency. Once an emergency has occurred, it is too late and family members and/or caregivers are left to make personal choices for you. You can spare them the burden by taking on this responsibility ahead of time.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions," accessed Feb. 05, 2016

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